The Philadelphia Union have given ample opportunities to their young players over the past few seasons and that trend continued on Saturday night with Quinn Sullivan becoming the latest academy product to break through with the Union first team, doing so in spectacular fashion.
Sullivan earned his first MLS start for the Union on Saturday, scoring a sensational bicycle kick goal and shining in his team’s 3-3 draw with the Chicago Fire. Sullivan is the latest Union Homegrown player to work his way up from the academy to the first team squad, and did not disappoint Curtin or his teammates as he filled in for captain Alejandro Bedoya.
“Obviously for Quinn to score such a special goal in his first start, I think it gets no better,” Curtin said. “I think that’s another goal of the week for us wrapped up. But for him to do it in his first professional start, is something he’ll never forget.”
Sullivan’s goal was the pick of the litter out of the six combined goals between the Union and Fire at Soldier Field, and not one you’d expect to see from a 17-year-old in his full debut. The midfielder got on the end of a loose ball at the far end of the Fire’s box and stretched him to bicycle a shot into the top corner of Bobby Shuttlesworth’s net.
It was Sullivan’s best contribution of his 61-minute outing at a rain-soaked Soldier Field pitch, and a moment he will certainly never forget after scoring a “Goal of the Week” nominee in his first start.
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“I don’t practice it very often,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t come about that often in training. It was special just to get the opportunity. I thank Jim for giving me the chance to prove myself. I think it was just instinct.
“It was kind of mind blowing,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t actually know it went in until I looked at Sergio and he’s in full sprint at me like cheering. That was a special moment.”
Sullivan became the youngest goalscorer in Union history, moving ahead of former forward Jack McInerney and continuing the current standard for Union Homegrown players. Sullivan also delivered a 94% passing completion rate, the highest by any player in Saturday’s draw, and two key passes, showing off his ability in the final third both as a shooter and passer.
His role with the first team may not take a major boost heading into the rest of the summer, especially with Bedoya, Jose Martinez, and Anthony Fontana all out of action due to separate reasons, but Sullivan did provide a glimpse of what could come if he continues to earn consistent minutes.
“I know my role in the team,” Sullivan said. “I know that Ale is a vet and I learn from him everyday and I think he deserves a starting role at this moment. I’m glad that I could come in and make a difference and prove that I could be out there.”
For now Sullivan will continue to push for a starting role as the Union looks to extend its unbeaten run to 10 matches on July 3rd. The defending Supporters’ Shield winners continue a three-match road trip at Nashville SC before visiting rivals New York Red Bulls on July 8.
However with the Union’s history of giving young players a chance, Sullivan’s stellar first start could give him needed confidence to keep his run going into the busy summer months.